Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Mako to manage Mets

The New York Mets named former Biscuits coach Mako Oliveras the manager of their Class AA team in Binghamton, N.Y., on Wednesday.

Oliveras was a coach for the Biscuits the last two years and had been hired by the Mets to be a roving instructor, but instead will manage the Binghamton Mets. Oliveras has managed 11 minor-league seasons, including the three before joining manager Charlie Montoyo's staff in Montgomery.

Oliveras is currently in Puerto Rico managing the Caguas Criollos.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

New coaching staff

Found lots of news last night that (unfortunately) I couldn't share with you. wouldn't load on my home computer, so it had to wait until I got to the office.

Here's the biggest: The Biscuits will have an entirely new coaching staff next year. Here's the link to the story posted three hours ago.

Tampa Bay's coaching assignments ...

Durham -- manager Charlie Montoyo, pitching Xavier Hernandez, hitting Gary Gaetti, trainer Mark Vinson
Montgomery -- manager Billy Gardner Jr., pitching Neil Allen, hitting Hector Torres, trainer Jimmy Southard
Vero Beach -- manager Joe Szekely, pitching R.C. Lichtenstein, hitting Ben Ogilvie, trainer Joel Smith
Columbus (Ga.) -- manager Jim Morrison, pitching Bill Moloney, hitting Brady Williams, trainer Kris Russell
Hudson Valley -- manager Matt Quatraro, pitching Rafael Montalvo, hitting Ozzie Timmons, trainer TBA
Princeton -- manager Jamie Nelson, pitching Marty DeMerritt, hitting Rafael Deleon, trainer TBA

Roving instructors -- field coordinator Jim Hoff, outfield/baserunning Skeeter Barnes, hitting Steve Livesey, pitching Dick Bosman
Training and rehabilitation -- coordinator Nick Paparesta, assistant Chris Tomashoff, strength and conditioning Trung Cao

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Rays bid adieu to Waechter

The Devil Rays wished pitcher Doug Waechter a happy holiday season today ... and released him.

Waechter had passed through waivers and Tampa Bay excised him from its 40-man roster, then axed him from its payroll completely. Waechter struggled last year with the Rays, went to the minors and was horrid at Class AAA Durham: 1-12, 8.32 ERA in 17 games. He was also hurt and wouldn't have pitched -- at best -- until midseason next year.

Monday, November 20, 2006

40-man roster moves

The Devil Rays added three to their 40-man roster today, all three with ties to the Biscuits.

Second baseman Elliot Johnson and right-handed Mitch Talbot played for Montgomery this year, while surly center fielder Elijah Dukes was with the team in 2005.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Rays add Astros pitching coach

The Devil Rays hired Jim Hickey as their major-league pitching coach Saturday, a move that seemingly gives Biscuits coach Xavier Hernandez a good shot at moving up to Class AAA Durham.

Hickey was the major-league pitching coach of the Houston Astros, who fired him at the end of the season. Hickey replaces Mike Butcher, who will be the Los Angeles Angels' pitching coach. He replaces Bud Black, the new manager of the Padres.

Hernandez and manager Charlie Montoyo were already good bets to be promoted from Montgomery to Durham after the Biscuits won the Southern League championship and the Rays fired Durham's entire coaching staff. Hickey has been with the Houston organization for 16 years, so he and Hernandez should be familiar with each other.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Biscuits play for AFL title

The Biscuits have a stake in Saturday's Arizona Fall League championship game.

The Phoenix Desert Dogs take on the Grand Canyon Rafters and three of Desert Dogs pitchers are Biscuits: Jeremy Flanagan, Jeff Ridgway and Brian Henderson.

The Devil Rays have two other position players, though neither has played for Montgomery: Ben Zobrist and Fernando Perez. Perez is expected to be the Biscuits' center fielder next year. Former Auburn star Javon Moran, who's in Cincinnati's system, also plays for the Dogs.

The Biscuits are covered with the other team, too. Fernando Cortez, a Montgomery fan favorite who is now with the Kansas City Royals, plays for the Rafters.

Baseball America list

It took me a day to get back around to it, but here is the Baseball America List. Here's the full link -- -- but it's subscriber only, sorry.

1. Delmon Young -- this was automatic
2. Evan Longoria
3. Reid Brignac
4. Jeff Niemann -- so far, I'm 4-for-5
5. Jake McGee -- oops. I fully admit I don't know a lot about the lower-level guys. McGee was at low-A this year.

6. Elijah Dukes
7. Wade Davis
8. Matt Walker -- another oops
9. Jeremy Hellickson
10. Joel Guzman -- honestly, I discounted Guzman based on the .193 average he posted at Durham after coming over from the Dodgers. Baseball America lists him as a of/1b/3b, not that he's that great at any of the three.

The three I ranked that didn't land on BA's top 10 were Mitch Talbot, Juan Salas and Shawn Riggans. I had Talbot second, Salas ninth and Riggans 10th.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Top prospects guess

Baseball America will release its opinion of Tampa Bay's top 10 prospects Wednesday. Here's my list, admittedly without much thought and even less expertise. Mine will be top heavy -- more from the high levels of the organization -- because those are the players I'm more familiar with.

1. RF Delmon Young -- He didn't lose his rookie status, so he'll be on BA's list, and he's an early favorite for 2007 AL Rookie of the Year. He's been the top talent in the minors for two straight years.

2. RHP Mitch Talbot -- He simply dominated after joining the Biscuits in a midseason trade with the Astros. Talbot was electrifying in the playoffs: two five-hit shutouts.

3. SS Reid Brignac -- I'll be honest, after seeing Brignac for a few weeks, I wondered if he had the arm strength to stay at shortstop. Every throw just didn't look terribly impressive, though he got the out. Two or three plays later made me reconsider that. I've realized he was fooling me. He has the bat, though he didn't show 20-home run power once he arrived here.

4. RHP Jeff Niemann -- Niemann stayed healthy this year with the Biscuits and didn't miss a start after joining the team at midseason. He piles up pitches quickly, which keeps him from working deep into games. Niemann missed his last few appearances in the Arizona Fall League after some shoulder tightness.

5. 3B Evan Longoria -- Longoria took the minors by storm after being picked in the first round of the June draft. He's scheduled to be back in Montgomery to start next year, but don't expect him to stay long if he keeps raking.

6. RHP Jeremy Hellickson -- He has put up good numbers every year, but he's also yet to reach a full-season league. The Rays have been terribly careful with this kid.

7. RHP Wade Davis -- He put up good numbers in the hitter haven that is the California League.

8. OF Elijah Dukes -- Dukes could easily be second on this list if only his baseball talents were judged. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Immensely talented, but his conduct remains a question. One of the better moves the Rays made this year -- and they made plenty of good moves -- was in January. They extended their player development contract with the Durham Bulls through 2008. Had they waited, Tampa Bay would have been searching for a new Class AAA affiliate because of the 2006 team. It was mainly Dukes, some Delmon and a little B.J. Upton that caused problems.

9. RHP Juan Salas -- Salas made his big-league debut late this season, barely two years after first taking the mound. I'm still curious about his age -- he's either 27 or 29, depending on where you look.

10. C Shawn Riggans -- Riggans also reached the big leagues this year. He's answered injury questions the last two seasons.

11. RHP Andy Sonnanstine -- He may not highly valued around baseball because his radar readings aren't eye-popping. Sonnanstine does one thing: win. A Niemann-Sonnanstine-Talbot rotation was quite effective with the Biscuits.

12. RHP Jason Hammel -- I'm probably undervalueing Hammel because he was 0-6 with a 7.77 ERA in nine starts with the Rays this year. He still counts as a rookie because he threw only 44 innings.

13. 1B Wes Bankston -- It wasn't a good year for Bankston. First, the Rays tried to make him a third baseman and sent him to Montgomery. He could have been a first baseman at Durham to start the year. Second, he suffered an oblique injury that cost him 40 games. Third, he had an ankle injury that ended his time in the Arizona Fall League.

I'll stop at 13 because I'm tired. Here are the others that I was considering (in no particular order).

LHP Jeff Ridgway
2B Elliot Johnson
RF Justin Ruggiano
LHP Brian Henderson
RF Shaun Cumberland
C John Jaso
LHP James Houser
RHP Chris Mason
LHP Mike Wlodarczyk
LHP Jake McGee

I'm sure I'm missing somebody.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Mako, Machi, Magrane

Three members of this year's Biscuits won't be back next season.

Jean Machi has signed with the Toronto Blue Jays, who placed the right-handed pitcher on their 40-man protected roster.

Jim Magrane signed a minor-league contract with the Washington Nationals. Outfielder Darnell McDonald, who was with Durham last year, and Jacksonville Suns pitchers T.J. Nall and Joel Hanrahan also signed with the Nationals.

Mako Oliveras has been hired by the New York Mets as a roving instructor. Oliveras is currently in Puerto Rico managing the Caguas Criollos.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bankston hurt in Arizona

Former Biscuits infielder Wes Bankston will miss the rest of the Arizona Fall League season because of an ankle sprain, the league announced Tuesday. Bankston was 1-for-12 in three games with the Phoenix Desert Dogs before getting hurt Friday.

Bankston's had terrible luck with injuries this year. He missed 40 Biscuits games with a strained oblique early in the season, though it didn't stop him from being picked to the league's annual All-Star Game. Bankston was promoted to Class AAA Durham just after the All-Star break.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Ridgway on 40-man

The Devil Rays added former Biscuits reliever Jeff Ridgway to their 40-man roster today. They also released Kevin Witt, the first baseman who led the minor leagues in home runs this year at Class AAA Durham.

Ridgway was with Montgomery early this year before moving up to Durham. The left-hander played for Team USA in an Olympic qualifier in Havana at the end of the season. The Americans beat the Cubans to win the tournament.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Jose Diaz outrighted

The Kansas City Royals removed former Biscuits pitcher Jose Diaz from their 40-man roster Wednesday. He passed through waivers and will stay with the Kansas City organization.

Diaz came to the Devil Rays with Scott Kazmir in the July 2004 trade with the New York Mets. When Tampa Bay removed him from its 40-man in 2005, the Cleveland Indians claimed him on waivers. The Indians didn't offer him a contract for this year and he signed with the Texas Rangers, who traded him to the Royals in July. Diaz's first organization was the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The pop quiz on all that starts in five minutes.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Rest in peace, Buck O'Neil

Buck O'Neil wasn't a Hall of Fame-quality player or has Hall of Fame credentials as a coach but he belongs in the Hall of Fame. He was a great ambassador for the game and -- most of all -- a Hall of Fame-quality person.

I can't say I met Buck O'Neil. I was too wide-eyed and thrilled to have one of the all-time greatest people in my midst three years ago. I was in Kansas City, Mo., in March 2003 for the NAIA basketball tournament. AUM and Faulkner were both there -- both lost in the first round.

One day, AUM played a 10:30 p.m. game (yes, 10:30 p.m.) and I had all day to "waste." My main planned stop was the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. I didn't plan on what became the visit's highlight.

As I was walking toward the door, the AUM team started pouring out into the lobby. As I chatted with a few of the players, one of the museum officials asked how they enjoyed the museum. They said it was great and asked if Buck was around. He was -- and was more than willing to come down and visit.

His enthuiasm was obvious as he talked up the players and virtually everybody in the lobby. I think I said one or two "yes, sirs" in his direction. The Museum hauled out a box of replica hats for the Kansas City Monarchs. Buck started signing.

Every AUM player, quite a few fans and one awed sports writer came away with a Buck O'Neil-autographed hat that day. Mine is still on display at home and will stay that way.

Thanks, Buck, for all you did. You'll be missed once you're finally inducted into the Hall of Fame. The sooner, the better.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Affiliate shuffle

"Bubba" mentioned the Cubs signing a player-development contract with the Tennessee Smokies in a comment and asked about the other openings in the Southern League. It seemed logical to start a new thread about that. is a great place to track the affiliate shuffle -- and any off-the-field baseball news. They list three Class AA openings (San Antonio, Mobile and West Tenn) and three major-league teams needing affiliates (Mariners, Padres and Diamondbacks).

San Antonio had the Mariners and wants to look around. San Antonio will get first choice among the three suitors. Mobile will get the second pick and West Tenn will get whatever team is left.

There are two other affiliates where the signings are only a formality: Bowie and the Orioles, Reading and the Phillies.

The Devil Rays won't be back in Michigan. With Southwest Michigan becoming the Great Lakes Loons in Midland, Mich., the new franchise is flirting with the Dodgers, according to the site. The Rays could stay in the Midwest League (Clinton, Iowa??) but would prefer a South Atlantic League entry. Savannah and Columbus, Ga., are open. Savannah would be a better situation for the Rays.

The Dodgers will probably move their spring training to Arizona in two years and may sell their Vero Beach franchise in the high-Class A Florida State League to the Devil Rays. The Rays will move the franchise to their new complex in Port Charlotte that opens in 2009. If that happens, I'd expect the Rays to stay in Visalia for the next two years.

The affiliate dance will end this week. After that, Minor League Baseball starts matching up stragglers.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Biscuits sweep Tampa Bay awards

Biscuits won both of Tampa Bay's annual minor-league awards, the Devil Rays announced Thursday.

Shortstop Reid Brignac is the Rays' minor-league player of the year and Andy Sonnanstine is the pitcher of the year.

Brignac excelled at Class A Visalia before coming to Montgomery in early August and helping the Biscuits win the Southern League championship. The 20-year-old hit a combined .321 with 24 home runs and 99 RBIs between the two stops. He was the California League's most valuable player.

Sonnanstine set an organizational record with 15 victories and also won two postseason games. In the regular season, he was 15-8 with a 2.67 ERA and had a nine-start win streak that included four shutouts. The four shutouts led the entire minor leagues for the season. The 23-year-old totaled 153 strikeouts in 185.2 innings. His workload ranks second on Tampa Bay's all-time list.

Sonnanstine was Montgomery's pitcher of the year and second baseman Elliot Johnson its top position player. Johnson hit .281 with a career-high 15 homers and 50 RBIs this year. He also scored a team-high 69 runs.

Former Biscuit Juan Salas won Class AAA Durham's pitcher's award. Salas did not allow an earned run in 34.2 innings for Montgomery before moving up to the Bulls. At Durham, Salas had a 1.57 ERA in 27 appearances and was promoted to the major leagues.

Tampa Bay's other winners ...
Durham Bulls
Player: INF/DH Kevin Witt
Visalia Oaks
Player: OF Fernando Perez
Pitcher: LH James Houser
Southwest Michigan Devil Rays
Player: OF J.T. Hall
Pitcher: LH Jacob McGee
Hudson Valley Renegades
Player: OF Ryan Royster
Pitcher: RH Jeremy Hellickson
Princeton Rays
Player: C Nevin Ashley
Pitcher: LH Ryan Morse

Monday, September 18, 2006

Oaks lose in Cal League championship

The Visalia Oaks, the up-and-coming Montgomery Biscuits, lost Monday in Game 5 of the California League championship series. The Inland Empire 66ers of San Bernardino scored a run in the eighth inning to grab the lead and turned to a former Tampa Bay farmhand to secure a 2-1 win.

Jose de la Cruz was traded from the Rays to the Seattle Mariners at the beginning of the season for Marcos Carvajal, who pitched for the Biscuits this year. De la Cruz got into trouble in the ninth -- Visalia had two runners on and one out -- but a flyout and strikeout ended it.

For the Oaks, Fernando Perez walked and scored on a John Jaso sacrifice fly in the sixth inning, while starting pitcher Derek Feldkamp gave up six hits and one run over 5 2/3 innings.

Feldkamp allowed an inside-the-park homer to Josh Womack in the fifth. In the eighth, Johan Limonta doubled home Reed Eastley off Oaks reliever Richard de los Santos.

Because Visalia's earlier two playoff series went to a final game, the Oaks were playing a playoff game for a 13th straight day.

The Biscuits did pilfer three of the Oaks' best players in early August: shortstop Reid Brignac, third baseman Evan Longoria and left fielder Patrick Breen. Those three helped fuel Montgomery's run to the Southern League championship.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Let the offseason begin

Your Monday paper marks a pseudo-milestone. It should be the first since March 25 in which the Montgomery Biscuits are not mentioned. That's a streak of 186 days.

We got lucky a few times to keep the streak going. The tough times were when the Biscuits had an off day and then were on a road trip. There were four of those.

May 22: Jeff Ridgway had just been promoted. We did a story on him packing everything up and getting to Durham so quickly.

June 18: Not much luck here. It marked the end of the first half of the season.

July 17: Michael Coleman was named the Southern League's hitter of the week.

Aug. 30: Of course, we had to make the mayor squirm a little over the $1,000 he suddenly owed Gabriel Martinez. Or, as he said when he presented the money Sept. 15: "Gabriel Mar-teen-ess."

Just because its the offseason doesn't mean an end to the ~beloved~ Riverwalk Talk (sarcasm). There will be news in the coming months over Tampa Bay's 40-man roster, the minor-league coaching staffs, the Devil Rays' affiliates and other happenings. Plus, I may post some musings from the season (favorite interviews is one subject dangling in my frail mind).

There could be something late tonight ... the Class A Visalia Oaks are one win from a California League championship.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Title hangover

The Biscuits start heading for home this morning, though some left town soon after Friday's win over Huntsville that brought Montgomery its sixth Southern League title.

I just went back over to the stadium (it's 3:20 a.m. right now) and there are a few players still there. They are trying to relax and rest before heading for home themselves.

Montgomery manager Charlie Montoyo may leave the city for the final time when he flies home today. Pitching coach Xavier Hernandez started for home late Firday. Hitting coach Mako Oliveras will start in that direction today.

Since the Devil Rays fired the entire staff at Class AAA Durham, those three could be in line for a promotion themselves. They'd all be good choices.

Michael Coleman turned it on during the championship series, Elliot Johnson hit for the cycle Friday -- the first in franchise history -- and the pitching was excellent. The crowds were intense, though some players thought the stands should have been packed. Minor-league playoffs are never good draws.

"That was a big-league atmosphere," Coleman said. "We have the greatest fans, period. Put that in all capital letters."

I won't do the ALL CAPS thing, but the fans were obviously into the games. When Coleman was hit by a pitch Thursday and a brawl almost ensued, the fans remembered when he came back up. They chanted his name. He responded with an RBI single.

Now, we have a cold offseason to wander through. Only 201 days, starting with Saturday, until Opening Day 2007.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


With how much the Biscuits were excited about their win Thursday, they were also disappointed.

"Where are all the fans?" one inquired after a mere announced crowd of 3,216 watched Montgomery's victory over Huntsville.

The people that were at Riverwalk were enthusiastic, particularly after the benches cleared in the sixth inning. Michael Coleman was hit by a pitch in his first at-bat after a home run. In the eighth, Coleman came back to the plate and the crowd greeted him by chanting his name.

If, some players said, there had only been more fans.

One win away

The Biscuits' 7-0 win over Huntsville on Saturday leaves Montgomery needing just one more victory to claim the Southern League championship.

Mayor Bobby Bright is bringing a $1,000 check to Riverwalk Stadium on Friday (he postponed Thursday) to pay off Gabriel Martinez for hitting a train with a home run. Bright might need to bring some more cash.

Way back in 2004, Bright showed up to pay Iker Franco for the same feat. Just before the pregame presentation, Montgomery manager Charlie Montoyo joked with Bright that he should pay him something for putting Franco in the lineup.

"Get into the playoffs and we'll talk," Bright said.

I was there, right next to Bright, and heard the conversation.

Oh, Mr. Mayor, how much is a league championship worth??? Of course, the Biscuits could lose the next two games and watch Huntsville celebrate.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Bad loss, impressive acts

The Biscuits handed away Tuesday's opener of the Southern League championship series. Huntsville had only five hits in the Stars' 6-4 victory, but Montgomery committed five errors and issued seven walks.

Reid Brignac and Evan Longoria each committed two errors, one each in Huntsville's three-run eighth. They also stepped up after the game. They didn't back away from an interview, cower in an off-limits area or get snippy. They could have, but they didn't.

Jean Machi gave up a leadoff single in the eighth, threw nine straight balls and allowed a run before leaving without retiring a hitter. He also answered questions.

Auburn football player Ben Obomanu did the same after dropping a potential game-winning touchdown against Ole Miss a few years ago. He was skewered the next day, but stories after that applauded him for taking such responsibility.

That's a sign of maturity that should be applauded.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Five months late?

The Biscuits and Devil Rays announced Tuesday that they were extending their player development contract through 2008 -- five months after one of Montgomery's owners said so.

Biscuits owner Tom Dickson said in early April that the PDC was already set through 2008. That was part of the purchase agreement when Dickson and wife Sherrie Myers bought the Orlando Rays and moved them to Montgomery for the 2004 season. Tampa Bay had owned the Orlando franchise.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Big effect for next season?

Jason Cromer was on the Biscuits' original team and said Monday that a Southern League championship could heighten an already great atmosphere at Riverwalk Stadium.

The Biscuits face Huntsville in the Southern League championship series this week. Montgomery returned to the league in 2004 and has drawn at least 300,000 fans each season, but a league title (and even a successful season) could jack up the fun for 2007.

"It would add more excitement next year," Cromer said. "The excitement is already here and has been since Opening Day, but it never hurts to add more."

Saturday's 2-0 win over Jacksonville finished that series and came before an announced crowd of only 4,013 -- the smallest home Saturday crowd in Biscuits history -- but Cromer said it was an intense crowd ... and loud.

"Especially for the turnout," he said. "This is playoff baseball, so a lot of people don't know we're in town and it's football season, but it was a good crowd."

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Talbot's time off

The Biscuits made an unusual move for the first two games of the Jacksonville series and it paid off in Game 3.

They left one of their pitchers home.

Mitch Talbot didn't go with the team to Jacksonville and spent the two days golfing, relaxing and preparing for Saturday's game.

It must have worked. Talbot threw a five-hit shutout, struck out a Biscuits-record 14 and walked none in Montgomery's 2-0 sweep-sealing win.

It ended a semi-vacation for Talbot, who had spent the two previous days here while his teammates sweated out two wins over the Suns.

"I would have liked to have been there, but with the bus ride back and pitching the next day, they thought it would be better if I stayed back," Talbot said Saturday. "I'd have been going down there to just sit and watch."

Talbot got his golf in, but he also got his work. The Devil Rays have a daily schedule for their starting pitchers. Montgomery's coaches trusted Talbot to keep the schedule while they weren't there.

"I've been golfing a lot," Talbot said, "but I came up here and threw against the (outfield) wall to get my throwing in."

Slip 'n Sliding away

The Biscuits pulled out their alcohol again Saturday after sweeping the Jacksonville Suns.

Three sights greatly amused me during their multiple champagne sprays, water cooler dumps and general revelry:

1) Gabriel Martinez was in semi-sprint mode with a cooler on his way toward a coach. Martinez took a corner a little too quickly and, on the wet plastic that was covering the carpet, busted his butt. The team, which had been chanting the name of the coach, soon switched to chanting Gaby's and doused him instead. Gaby did the honorable thing -- and turned the cooler on himself.

2) Mike Prochaska made a gruesome display on a stretch of the plastic that some players used as a makeshift clubhouse Slip 'n Slide. He did the worm, full gyrations and all, across the full distance of the plastic. It wasn't a pretty sight.

3) Ryan Christianson, after each slide, walked the length of it spreading more water from a cooler to lubricate it for the next passenger. He had the look of a Spring Break wet T-shirt judge.

Mayor Bobby Bright spoke to the team before the full force of the celebrating started. He said he'll pay Martinez his $1,000 for hitting a train with a home run before the Biscuits' home game Thursday with Huntsville.

Oh, I have a fourth amusing sight ...
4) Bright had a frightful quiver just after he finished speaking and Justin Ruggiano came toward him with a cup. Ruggiano went to dump the cup on Bright, who was in dress clothes and tie but was on the plastic and in the free-fire zone. The cup was empty.

(I was again a victim, pulled into the fray by a demonic-looking Chairon Isenia. This time, they added shaving cream to the liquids. I'll be washing clothes tonight. I thought they'd wait until they won the championship for another spraying, if they win.)

Durham coaches fired

The Devil Rays fired the entire coaching staff at Class AAA Durham, the team announced to Tampa Bay-area media Saturday.

Manager John Tamargo, coaches Joe Coleman and Richie Hebner, and even trainer Tom Tisdale won't be back with the Bulls. Tampa Bay also fired minor-league pitching coordinator Jerry Nyman and three major-league scouts.

The Durham firings could give Montgomery's staff an opening to move up. Manager Charlie Montoyo has been with the Biscuits for all three years, while coaches Mako Oliveras and Xavier Hernandez are in their second years here.

Durham had a stressful season with Delmon Young's bat throw, Elijah Dukes' usual shenanigans (multiple suspensions and ejections) and even Tamargo, who was suspended 10 games for bumping an umpire.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Sonnanstine in clear

Andy Sonnanstine, tonight's starting pitcher for the Biscuits, won't have a pitch count hold him back.

The Devil Rays have cleared Sonnanstine to throw as long as he's effective, leaving it up to Biscuits manager Charlie Montoyo and pitching coach Xavier Hernandez to decide when to pull him.

Sonnanstine led all of minor-league baseball with four shutouts this year, all within a nine-start win streak. Concerned over his workload, the Devil Rays put the clamps down and Sonnanstine hasn't thrown more than seven innings in any start since the streak ended.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Game 1 at Jacksonville

Biscuits win 4-3 with a four-run rally in the seventh and some gutsy pitching.

Spike Lundberg held up his end of the deal -- see today's earlier post -- with a season-high 11 strikeouts and shutout pitching for six innings. In the seventh, Michael Coleman led off with a homer to make it 3-1.

Two outs later, the Biscuits went single-double-walk-walk to make it 3-2. Then, Justin Ruggiano haunted his old team. Ruggiano, who came to the Biscuits from the Suns in July, hit a ground-rule double to left that brought home two runs and gave Montgomery the lead.

Montgomery starter Jeff Niemann gave up three runs in the first three innings, capped by a two-run homer by Tydus Meadows, then rolled. He left after 6 2/3 innings. Jacksonville, following that home run, managed only two more hits.

Suns' Lundberg confident

In today's Times-Union, Jacksonville pitcher Spike Lundberg said the Suns' season, despite a top-notch record, is "not done yet." Jacksonville hosts the Biscuits tonight to start a best-of-five playoff series.

Other notable quotes from Lundberg ...

On the Biscuits' sweep last month in Jacksonville: "Plus they came in here the last series and took care of business. We're looking forward to payback. They played well, and we played probably our worst series of the season."

On his loss to Montgomery in last month's series: "That was their best game against me this year after I had beaten them three times. But I'm still confident going into this series. It's not a matter of revenge. It's a matter of getting the first win for the team. We want to set the tone in this series in the first game. ..."

Lundberg was the Southern League's top pitcher this season. The 29-year-old finished 15-2 with a league-leading 2.27 ERA. He starts against Jeff Niemann tonight.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Riggans, Salas hit bigs

The Devil Rays gave catcher Shawn Riggans and pitcher Juan Salas the call today. Both deserve it.

Riggans has answered the main question about him the last two years -- he's durable and can stay healthy. He's hit, still plays defense and (stunningly) has shown some speed. I would have imagined pink uniforms for the Biscuits before I could have envisioned Riggans hitting ~two~ triples in a season.

Riggans has also been one of the most affable players to roll through Riverwalk Stadium, period. He called me last fall after a hurricane rolled through his Fort Lauderdale neighborhood because an Alabama Power crew from Montgomery had been the one to turn the power back on. He wanted to extend his thanks.

Salas didn't give up an earned run with Montgomery this year, moved up to Durham and showed enough that his next pitch will be in a Tampa Bay uniform. Salas' biggest frustration may have been the language barrier when I tried to interview him. We needed a translator whenever I needed more than a sentence or two.

Salas is 27 years old, so the Rays needed to get a look at him now to see if he's worth keeping. He has a natural cut fastball and, I'm told, was trying to make it cut with Durham and it didn't have the same effect.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Stokes up to Devil Rays

Pitcher Brian Stokes, who was with the Biscuits last season, is headed to Tampa Bay. He'll make his major-league debut Sunday.

Super soaker

I tried to stay away from the spray, slip in and grab my quote or three, slip out and go write my story. I tried to keep a low profile and slyly survey the scene for Saturday's story, make a quick observation for history's sake. I tried.

Unfortunately, a few players saw me meekly peeking around into the clubhouse Friday after the Biscuits clinched a playoff berth with a 5-4 win over Mississippi. I paid the price.

They started inviting me to have a closer, first-hand look as they sprayed champagne and other "social sodas" around in celebration. I said no. They started chanting my name and beckoning me to see the mess they were making. I declined.

Ryan Christianson, with a paternal look in his eye, walked out of the clubhouse to where I was, safely sheltered in an area unprotected by plastic and off-limits to their party, and never said a word. Like a gentle dentist guiding a patient to the drill, he put one hand on my elbow and pointed the other, which had a beverage in it, toward the door.

I figured it would come to this. The reporter always gets dragged into the celebration, whether he's willing or not. I had considered my options: a) I could acquiese and take it, perhaps gaining a shred or two of respect, and getting it out of the way; b) I could resist and be thrown into the spray, thus losing what little reputation I have; or c) I could resist, the players would give up, and I'd have no respect whatsoever.

I chose A.

Just as I was about to reach the door, ending my walk of the Green Mile, I was still clutching my trusty notepad, board and scorebook. Michael Coleman mentioned that I might want to leave those outside and spare permanent damage. I obliged.

Soon, I was on the plastic and a target. My clothes may recover from the drenching of a lot of "social sodas" and such. I didn't drink any of it, took my soaking and went on with life. I dried off what little I could, gathered my quotes and returned to the press box in wet shirt and shorts.

I typed my story while starting to shiver from the cold. I think I made deadline.

I've never been through that type of situation before, but I'll be better prepared next time. I had a change of clothes, at my hotel a mile from the stadium. After I sent my story, I scurried back to change and took my wet clothes to my hero of the night, Trustmark Park's visiting clubhouse manager who offered to wash them.

Maybe next time for the Biscuits will be in two weeks, when the Southern League championship is decided.

See you there, Biscuits. I'll bring the rain coat.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Delmon sounding good

Delmon Young on his hot start, specifically White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen's comment that he's going to be in the Hall of Fame ...


"I'm not going to take any comments like that seriously right now," Young said before his first home game at Tropicana Field. "My career could easily change over the course of the season. A lot of guys have a great year, then come back the next couple of years and struggle. ... I could easily go 0-for-50 and I could be batting .100, so I'm not even really worried about that. I'm just trying to get on base, let the guys drive me in or try to drive in some runs so we can get some victories."

That sounds like the Delmon I talked to in spring training, which is a very good sign.

In case of a tie

Since Montgomery could still tie Jacksonville or Mobile for the South Division title, the Southern League laid out the tiebreaker scenario Friday.

If the Biscuits tie Mobile, there will be a one-game playoff Wednesday in Mobile. The winner drives to Jacksonville and starts the best-of-five playoff series Thursday.

If the Biscuits tie Jacksonville, there will be a one-game playoff Wednesday in Montgomery. No matter who wins, the Biscuits and Suns will start their playoff series Thursday in Jacksonville. The teams one-game playoff would decide only who would host Games 4 and 5, if necessary.

Jacksonville hosts the first two games of the playoff series next Thursday and Friday. Mobile/Montgomery hosts Game 3 next Saturday.

I don't know how much effort the Suns would put into a one-game showdown. They're already going to the playoffs. If they win, Games 4 and 5 will probably be a day-night doubleheader on Sept. 11 because the NFL's Jaguars are home Sept. 10. Why waste a top-flight pitcher in the one-game showdown?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Sonnanstine on league list, but ???

Montgomery's Andy Sonnanstine was picked to the Southern League's postseason All-Star team Thursday. Sonnanstine is the league's top right-handed pitcher, but another right-hander is the league's most outstanding pitcher.

Jacksonville's Spike Lundberg, 29, is 14-2 with a 2.36 ERA. Sonnanstine is 15-7 with a 2.77 ERA.

Chattanooga's Joey Votto, to no surprise, won the most valuable player award. Jacksonville's John Shoemaker won the manager of the year award. Shoemaker is the first two-time winner of the award.

No other Biscuit landed on the postseason All-Star team, which is picked in a vote of the league's managers, broadcasters, general managers and beat writers.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Delmon takes flight

Delmon Young started what should be a stellar career Tuesday.

The Chicago White Sox welcomed him to the majors by hitting him with the first pitch of his first at-bat. (I wonder if Ozzie Guillen stood at the top step when it happened and held his hands high in triumph. What a glory hog.)

Delmon may have struck out in his next at-bat, but responded with the first of many, many home runs in the sixth inning.

He could have made a first-inning catch that would have taken away a Chicago home run. He looked like he didn't jump, but I think an unfamiliarity with Comiskey Park (or whatever it's called now) and the fence aborted Delmon's effort. One thing about him, he goes all-out.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Delmon a major-leaguer

Delmon Young will make his major-league debut Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox, according to the good folks at The St. Petersburg Times.

UPDATE: Rick Vaughn, Tampa Bay's vice president of public relations, has confirmed that Young has been promoted.

Niemann wins award

The Southern League picked Montgomery's Jeff Niemann for its weekly pitching award Monday. Niemann allowed one run in 13 innings and won twice last week. He allowed six hits, walked five and struck out 14.

Niemann's seven shutout innings last Monday at Jacksonville helped the Biscuits pull into a first-place tie with the Suns in the South Division. He beat Birmingham on Saturday with a six-inning, three-hit victory.

He's 5-5 with a 2.88 ERA in 13 starts. He has 78 strikeouts and has allowed 52 hits in 72 innings.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sunday's Shaggy update

Chairon Isenia left the hospital Sunday after a two-day stay and resting at his Montgomery apartment following Friday's concussion.

The Biscuits put Isenia on the disabled list, but the catcher is expected to return to Riverwalk Stadium on Monday. He won't play until at least late in the week.

Delmon to be in ESPN The Magazine

ESPN The Magazine is planning a story on Delmon Young. You've been warned.
(How do I know? Unfortunately, they interviewed me.)

Despite his troubles, Delmon deserves to make his major-league debut next month when the major-league rosters expand. Look for his April bat throw at an umpire to be a big subject when the Rays play at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 12-14 and at Fenway Park on Sept. 26-27.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Shaggy update

Biscuits catcher Chairon Isenia will spend a second night at Baptist South after leaving Friday's game. Isenia is doing well, coaches and teammates said, but doctors are keeping him one more night for observation.

Isenia doesn't remember the eighth-inning collision that left him with a concussion, one main reason doctors extended his hospital stay. X-rays revealed no broken bones.

Birmingham's Cory Aldridge, the player who ran over Isenia, is out of the lineup Saturday with a neck strain suffered in the collision.

System check

International League South
RF Delmon Young has a .320 average, eight home runs and 57 RBIs in 84 games. He's 22-of-26 on steals.
RHP Brian Stokes has been removed from the rotation. He has allowed five hits in three shutout relief appearances. Stokes is 7-7 with a 4.19 ERA.
1B Wes Bankston is hitting .321 in his last 13 games with eight runs scored and six RBIs. He has a .293 average for the season.
LHP Chris Seddon gave up one earned run over six innings to win Thursday. He's 9-7 with a 4.92 ERA.
C Shawn Riggans has a .291 average, 11 home runs and 54 RBIs.
SS Matthew Maniscalco has a .196 average in 17 games.

California League North
C John Jaso is hitting .303 with 22 doubles and seven homers. He's knocked in 48 runs and scored 52.
LHP Jon Barratt has allowed hitters a .235 average. He's 8-6 with a 3.07 ERA.
3B Patrick Cottrell has a .419 average and 13 RBIs in his last 10 games. He has a .264 average this year.
1B Chris Nowak is 15-for-44 with 14 RBIs in his last 11 games. He has a .309 average, 10 home runs and 97 RBIs.
CF Fernando Perez has scored 113 runs in 124 games. He has a .299 average with 69 walks and 125 strikeouts. He's 32-of-47 on steals.

Midwest League East
RHP Wade Davis threw six shutout innings in a no-decision Friday. He gave up three hits, walked none and struck out eight. He has 158 strikeouts in 139 innings.
RHP Matt Walker is 2-1 with a 1.61 ERA in four August starts. He's 5-4 with a 2.75 ERA this season.
LHP Michael Wlodarczyk lost Friday despite allowing one run over six innings in the second game of a doubleheader. He has 120 strikeouts and 54 walks this year.

New York-Penn League McNamara
RHP Jeremy Hellickson allowed one earned run over 6.2 innings Friday, lowering his ERA to 2.00 in 67.2 innings. Hitters have a .191 average against Hellickson, who is 2-3.
RHP Woods Fines threw six shutout innings Wednesday in a no-decision. He's 5-3 with a 2.78 ERA.
CF John Matulia is 7-of-18 in his last four games, pushing his average to .248.

Appalachian League East
CF Desmond Jennings knocked in four runs Wednesday. He has 10 hits in his last seven games.
RHP Tyree Hayes has a 3-0 record and a 2.65 ERA in 34 innings. He's walked eight and struck out 23.
RHP Chris Andujar is 3-4 with a 5.40 ERA.

Those who strayed from the Rays
RHP Jose Veras has not allowed a run in his last 11 appearances with Class AAA Columbus (Yankees). He's saved 21 games and allowed hitters a .227 average.
2B Fernando Cortez has a .378 average in his last 10 games for Class AAA Omaha (Royals). He's hitting .261 in 57 games.
RHP Carlos Hines put together four straight shutout appearances before Thursday's two-run, two-inning outing at Class AAA Fresno (Giants). He's 2-4 with two saves and a 4.91 ERA.
IF Dan DeMent had three RBIs Friday with Class AAA New Orleans (Nationals), but is hitting only .204 in 13 games.
RF Brian Martin is 0-for-21 since Aug. 7 at Class AAA Memphis (Cardinals). His average has dipped to .239.
RHP John Webb is 6-11 with a 4.51 ERA for Class AAA Memphis (Cardinals). He's allowed 196 hits in 161.2 innings.
RHP Jose Diaz picked up his first win with Class AAA Omaha (Royals) last Sunday. He's 1-3 with a 7.36 ERA in nine appearances.
RHP Travis Minix, by allowing only one run in his last 10 games, has a 2.17 ERA in 38 appearances for Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Phillies).
C Robinson Cancel is slugging .455 and has swiped 28 bases for independent Edinburg. He's hitting .297 with 10 home runs and 52 RBIs.
RHP Willie Glen has 104 strikeouts in 22 starts with independent Gary. He's 9-5 with a 3.91 ERA.
LHP Yorkin Ferreras is 4-6 with a 3.13 ERA at independent San Angelo. He has struck out 65 in 69 innings.

Shaggy stays overnight

Biscuits catcher Chairon Isenia spent the night at Baptist Medical Center South after leaving Riverwalk Stadium in an ambulance Friday.

Isenia was knocked unconscious for in an eighth-inning collision. X-rays at the hospital came back negative, but Isenia will miss at least a few days, the team's trainer said.

"It's tough to say right now," Mark Vinson said late Friday. "I think he'll be back before the end of the year. It's obviously going to be a few days before he plays again."

Isenia was unconscious for "about 15-20" seconds, Vinson said. The injury caused a 21-minute delay in the game and emergency personnel drove onto the field to tend to Isenia.

Vinson said Isenia was responsive and talking at the hospital, "but I don't think he remembers a lot about what happened." Isenia, who stayed overnight for observation, is one of the most popular players in the clubhouse and with Montgomery's fans.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Move coming?

The Biscuits scratched Mike Prochaska from Friday's start and turned to Tony Peguero. Manager Charlie Montoyo said it was because there is the possibility of a move involving Class AAA Durham.

Prochaska said he was supposed to throw out of the bullpen Friday night, but (as of the eighth inning) he hasn't.

I don't know yet, but could Prochaska be on deck to start Saturday and Jeff Niemann is getting promoted?? Maybe Andy Sonnanstine is moving up and Prochaska starts Sunday??

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

MVP Brignac

Biscuits shortstop Reid Brignac won a league's most valuable player award Tuesday.

The Class A California League picked Brignac, who was promoted early this month from the Visalia Oaks to the Biscuits. Brignac spent the day basking in the honor -- he had the night off for Montgomery's win at Jacksonville.

Brignac's MVP award is like Delmon Young's last season with the Biscuits. Young left for Class AAA Durham just after the All-Star Game but left enough of an impression to be the MVP. Brignac played in 100 games for the Oaks and still ranks among the league leaders in several offensive categories.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Arizona roster

I went 2-for-5 on my "Arizona guesses."

Here's the seven Devil Rays headed to the Arizona Fall League ...
RHP Jeff Niemann -- said during the last home series he was going.
LHP Jeff Ridgway -- said last week he's going, after the Olympic qualifier.
RHP Jeremy Flanagan -- I missed this guess and, honestly, can't remember my pick at the moment. (I cheated and looked. I had guessed Juan Salas. I'll bet he's lined up a winter gig instead.)
LHP Brian Henderson -- thank you, thank you very much. I picked correctly.

1B Wes Bankston -- again, thank you very much. Another one correct.
OF Fernando Perez -- speedy outfielder at Visalia who needs to cut down on strikeouts. So much for my John Jaso guess.
SS Ben Zobrist -- already in the major leagues. I had pegged Reid Brignac.

They'll be playing for the mighty Phoenix Desert Dogs.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Arizona guesses

The Arizona Fall League rosters are due out Monday and each major-league team, I'm told, will send seven players (four pitchers, three position players). Two pitchers have already told me they're headed to the desert, but who will be the others?

Jeff Niemann missed the first half of the year after offseason surgery. He could sip on a cup of major-league coffee in September before heading to Arizona.

Jeff Ridgway made 50 relief appearances between Montgomery and Durham before his country called. He's playing for Team USA in an Olympic qualifier in Havana that starts late this month, but said he's bound for the AFL, too.

As for the guesses, I have three position players and two pitchers to work with.

Wes Bankston went last year, but his extended stay on the disabled list might mean a return trip. Bankston missed six weeks with an oblique injury, though he's since been promoted from the Biscuits to Durham. He also played in the AFL last year.

Juan Salas has had a dominating year with Montgomery and Durham and has 46 appearances combined, but he's also not a highly experienced pitcher. Salas converted from third base to the mound barely two years ago. He'll probably be in the majors next year, so the AFL would be a good step.

I don't see Elliot Johnson or Shawn Riggans going. Johnson was tremendous the first half of the year and has tapered off lately. He has a hip injury that he said needs some extended rest. He also has a wedding. Riggans has put up stout numbers with Durham and has (from what I can tell) stayed healthy. He should be in Tampa Bay's plans for next year and the Rays shouldn't risk it.

I also don't see Evan Longoria going, but it's a chancy guess. Of course, if Longoria went, he'd finish his run through the time zones within four months of being drafted. He's already played for teams in the Eastern, Pacific and Central time zones, so a little Mountain time would finish it. Longoria has also been playing meaningful games since Long Beach State's season started and has had a whirlwind first pro season. The Rays have said they plan to try him at some other positions than his native third (specifically second). They'll do that in their instructional league.

Reid Brignac, on the other hand, could be on board. Brignac wasn't projected to stay at shortstop, but has continued to hit and hasn't been a defensive liability. The Rays may need to make a final decision on his future. So far, to my untrained eye, he hasn't shown a strong arm at short. He also hasn't missed any plays he should have made because of that arm.

John Jaso has played a mere 20 games at catcher because of surgery last offseason. He's clubbed the ball all season at Visalia. Arizona will be a good place to see if he will stay a catcher and how well he does against top-notch pitching.

In order to cast as broad a net as possible (and hedge my bets), I'll say Jason Pridie would also be a distinct possibility. Pridie has had a disappointing year with the Biscuits, but his speed and aggressive play make him intriguing. The Twins took him in the major-league Rule V draft last year.

That leaves me one pitcher.

Andy Sonnanstine would be ideal (his lack of overpowering "stuff" hasn't stopped him from getting hitters out), but he's also put up a lot of innings. With three scheduled starts left, he's on pace to exceed last year's 180 2/3.

Oh, I've got it. I'll go with Brian Henderson. He hasn't thrown a lot this season (41 2/3 compared to 55 last year and 63 1/3 in 2004). Henderson has 12 holds and hasn't had a heavy workload. Though this is his third season with the Biscuits, Henderson is only 24 years old.

Now I'll wait and see how wrong I am.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

System check

International League South
C Shawn Riggans has 15 hits and eight RBIs in his last nine games, running his season numbers to .297 with 53 RBIs. He's hit 24 doubles and 11 home runs.
1B Kevin Witt homered again Friday, giving him 36 this season. He's set Tampa Bay's minor-league record and is three shy of a 76-year-old Durham franchise record. Witt is hitting .293 with 97 RBIs.
RHP Jason Hammel struck out a season-high 13 in a no-decision Wednesday. He allowed four hits and one run over seven innings. In his last two starts, Hammel has struck out 23 and walked none.
RF Delmon Young has a .321 average, eight homers, 54 RBIs and 22 stolen bases. He's homered twice in his last five games.
LHP J.P. Howell is 2-0 with three walks and 14 strikeouts in two starts since returning from Tampa Bay.
RHP Jim Magrane is 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA after allowing six earned runs in 4.2 innings Friday.

California League North
C Josh Arhart is 11-for-24 with eight RBIs and six runs scored in his last five games. He's hitting .313 with 14 homers and 62 RBIs.
1B Chris Nowak has 17 RBIs in his last 12 games and has 91 this year. On Friday, Nowak was 2-for-3 with three walks, three RBIs and three runs scored.
CF Fernando Perez, who has scored 107 runs, scored twice and knocked in three runs Friday.
RHP Chris Mason is 0-3 with a 9.64 ERA in his last three starts. He's 11-9 with a 4.78 ERA this season.

Midwest League East
LHP Michael Wlodarczyk and RHP Celso Rondon combined on a no-hitter in Friday's 12-0 home win over Peoria.
Wlodarczyk threw eight innings to win for only the third time since May. Wlodarczyk, who walked three and struck out seven, is 8-9 with a 3.45 ERA this year.
Rondon struck out the side in the ninth in his Southwest Michigan debut. He had a 1.93 ERA in 14 appearances at Hudson Valley when he was promoted.
CF Jackson Brennan was 2-for-3 with two doubles, two walks, three runs scored and three RBIs Friday. He's hitting .271 with 31 walks in 53 games.
LHP Jake McGee, who has a league-high 157 strikeouts, went on the disabled list Thursday with a tired arm.
RHP Wade Davis has 150 strikeouts in 133 innings. He's 7-11 with a 3.32 ERA and has allowed hitters a .247 average.

New York-Penn League McNamara
OF William Stewart has a .273 average, 17 RBIs and 15 runs scored in 38 games.
RHP Jeremy Hellickson threw a perfect inning in Wednesday's league All-Star Game. He's 2-3 with a 2.25 ERA and a .174 average against.
OF Ryan Royster was 1-for-2 with a run scored in the All-Star Game. Royster has a .251 average.

Appalachian League East
3B Michael McCormick is hitting .287 with 33 walks and 22 strikeouts.
RHP Aneudi Cuevas has an 0.84 ERA in 11 appearances.
C Nevin Ashley is hitting .326 with 25 RBIs and 22 runs scored.

Those who strayed from the Rays
2B Fernando Cortez has eight hits in his last four games at Class AAA Omaha (Royals). He has a .262 average. After playing five straight games in center field, Cortez has played four straight in the infield.
3B Rico Washington was 2-for-5 in each of his last two games with Class AAA Memphis (Cardinals). He's hitting .230.
IF Dan DeMent is hitting .150 in six games since being promoted to Class AAA New Orleans (Nationals).
C Iker Franco is hitting .243 with eight homers and 40 RBIs for Class AA Springfield (Cardinals). He's 3-for-28 since returning to the active lineup.
RHP Carlos Hines is 2-4 with two saves and a 4.84 ERA for Class AAA Fresno (Giants).
RHP Franklin Nunez has been released at Class AAA Richmond (Braves). He had a 1-6 record, two saves and a 6.09 ERA.
LHP Sam Walton allowed two runs in one inning Tuesday for Class AA Midland (A's). He's 1-4 with a 2.42 ERA, 15 walks and 19 strikeouts in 22.1 innings.
RHP Jose Diaz gave up three runs in one inning Friday with Class AAA Omaha (Royals). He's 0-3 with a 10.57 ERA in seven appearances.
RF Brian Martin has a .254 average for Class AAA Memphis (Cardinals).
RHP Travis Minix has allowed one run in his last nine appearances at Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Phillies). He has a 2.22 ERA.
RHP Willie Glen has allowed hitters a .225 average for independent Gary. He's 8-4 with a 3.88 ERA.
RHP Josh Parker is 5-7 with a 4.86 ERA with independent Amarillo.
C Robinson Cancel is hitting .290 with 41 walks and 26 steals at independent Edinburg.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Longoria has "minor" injury, nothing more

With how quickly Evan Longoria has risen through Tampa Bay's system, I admit I thought something might be up when Longoria suddenly left Wednesday's late game.

Of course, it was nothing.

Longoria fouled a ball off his left leg in the opener, but stayed in the game. He hit a bloop single in the nightcap, went station-to-station and scored a run. An inning later, Gabriel Martinez suddenly was in the game at third and Longoria was nowhere to be found.

He's supposed to miss Thursday's game and could return just in time for a major test. Chattanooga's Homer Bailey pitches Friday and is supposed to be the real deal. Friends have asked me the last two weeks about which game of this series might be the best to see. I've told all of them: "The one Homer Bailey is pitching."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Ridgway on Team USA

Former Biscuits pitcher Jeff Ridgway is playing for Team USA in an Olympic qualifying tournament that starts late this month in Havana, Cuba.

Ridgway started the year with Montgomery, moved up to Durham in May and will be in Communist Cuba for the end of the minor-league season. The 12-team qualifier starts Aug. 26 and the top two teams secure spots in the 2008 Beijing Games.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Longoria wins league honor

The Southern League picked Biscuits third baseman Evan Longoria for its weekly hitting award Monday.

Longoria was 10-for-25 with three home runs and seven RBIs over the last seven days. He homered twice Sunday at Mobile. Longoria jumped to Class AA Montgomery on Aug. 4 and has a .378 average, four homers and 12 RBIs in nine games.

He was Tampa Bay's first-round draft pick two months ago and has hit 16 homers in 45 professional games.

What a Dirtbag!
(Reference to his college team, Long Beach State.)

Glad I missed that one

Sure, if you've sat there from the beginning, there's something to be said for resilience when you hunker down for a extra-large, extra-inning game.

But, there are those times you laugh and thank a higher power that you weren't in attendance, too.

Jacksonville beat West Tenn 5-2 in a mere 20 innings Sunday -- Montgomery native Craig Brazell ended it with a three-run home run -- and I couldn't be happier that I wasn't at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.

The Diamond Jaxx tied the game in the eighth inning and looked to win it in the 19th. West Tenn scored a run and surely celebrated with glee. Too bad Jacksonville answered in the bottom of the 19th and extended the agony.

Brazell's game-ending blast didn't end either team's day. The game was the completion of a game suspended Saturday night. Sunday's regularly scheduled game was only seven innings long, but it didn't start until 8:23 p.m.

West Tenn's 4-1 victory ended at 10:07 p.m. (That pulled the Biscuits to within a game of the division-leading Suns.)

Let's give the Diamond Jaxx an hour to shower, eat, dress, pack the bus and leave. According to, it's a mere 720 miles back to Jackson, Tenn. Considering the time of day, let's say it's a 10-hour drive. Remembering the change to Central time, that puts the Diamond Jaxx back home about 8 a.m., just in time for an off day.

Ah, the plush life of minor-league baseball.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

System check

International League South
C Shawn Riggans is 9-for-28 in his last seven games. He's hitting .293 with nine home runs and 48 RBIs this year.
RHP Jason Hammel struck out a season-high 10 and walked none over 5.1 innings in a no-decision Friday. He gave up two earned runs.
RF Delmon Young was 3-for-5 Friday to extend a hitting streak to nine games. In the streak, he has seven RBIs. This year, Young has a .339 average, six homers and 51 RBIs in 69 games.
RHP Chad Orvella is 4-1 with a 1.73 ERA. He's struck out 51 and walked nine in 36.1 innings.
LF Joel Guzman has eight hits, including three solo homers, in his last five games.
RHP Juan Salas gave up his third earned run Thursday on a solo homer and picked up his first loss. He's 1-1 with two saves, a 1.27 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 21.1 innings.
RHP Doug Waechter is 1-8 with an 8.48 ERA.

California League North
C Josh Johnson was 2-for-3 in his Oaks debut Thursday. Johnson has played at four levels this season (in order): Montgomery, Durham, Princeton and Visalia.
C Josh Arhart has a .305 average, 21 doubles, 13 home runs and 54 RBIs.
CF Fernando Perez has scored twice in each of his last three games, giving him 100 runs scored in 112 games.
OF Sergio Pedroza is hitting .261 with one homer after eight games.
RHP Jarod Matthews is 0-7 with a 5.06 ERA.

Midwest League East
RHP Greg Dupas allowed three runs in one inning last Sunday, matching the runs he allowed in his previous 21 appearances. He's 4-2 with 24 saves and a 1.76 ERA.
RHP Kevin Lynn is 7-1 with a 1.94 ERA in 40 relief appearances. Lynn has 65 strikeouts and eight walks in 65 innings.
3B Cesar Suarez is hitting .305 with 39 runs scored and 30 RBIs in 69 games. He has 21 doubles.

New York-Penn League McNamara
1B Matt Fields knocked in 16 runs in a 12-game stretch that ended Friday. He has three homers, all in his last eight games, 23 RBIs and a .269 average.
LF Ryan Royster has at least one hit in 17 of his last 18 games. He's hitting .266.
RHP Jeremy Hellickson is 2-3 with a 2.12 ERA. He's walked one and struck out 20 in his last three starts.
RHP Woods Fines allowed one earned run and walked a season-high two over seven innings of a no-decision Friday, snapping a four-start win streak. He's 5-2 with a 3.05 ERA.
CF John Matulia has a .257 average, no homers and 12 RBIs in 40 games.

Appalachian League East
C Nevin Ashley is 15-for-24 in his current seven-game hit streak. He had three hits and four RBIs Wednesday. Ashley has a .345 average and 22 RBIs this year.
RHP Tyree Hayes' 19-inning shutout streak ended Wednesday with a five-run, five-inning no-decision. He's 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA.
CF Desmond Jennings is 25-for-29 on steals and has scored 37 runs. He's hitting .281.
RHP Aneudi Cuevas has an 0.93 ERA in 10 appearances. He's allowed seven hits, walked six and struck out nine.

Those who strayed from the Rays
2B Fernando Cortez has a .249 average for Class AAA Omaha (Royals). He's started his last three games in center field and has played five different positions since joining the team.
RHP Jose Diaz has given up seven earned runs in four appearances with Class AAA Omaha (Royals).
C Iker Franco is 1-for-12 in three games since coming off the disabled list at Class AA Springfield (Cardinals).
2B Dan DeMent has a .234 average, 18 home runs and 114 strikeouts for Class AA Harrisburg (Nationals).
RHP John Webb is 5-10 with a 4.63 ERA at Class AAA Memphis (Cardinals).
3B Rico Washington has a .225 average with Class AAA Memphis (Cardinals).
RF Brian Martin is 2-for-15 in his last five games at Class AAA Memphis (Cardinals), lowering his average to .268.
RHP Carlos Hines has a 2-4 record, two saves and a 4.98 ERA with Class AAA Fresno (Giants).
RHP Travis Minix is 0-3 with three saves at Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Phillies). He has a 2.32 ERA.
RHP Dewon Brazelton is 4-4 for Class AAA Portland (Padres). He gave up five runs in seven innings in a loss Wednesday.
C Robinson Cancel has a .292 average and is 23-for-26 on steals at independent Edinburg.
RHP Josh Parker is 4-7 with a 4.48 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 90.1 innings for independent Amarillo.
RHP Willie Glen has a 7-4 record and a 4.04 ERA with independent Gary.
RHP Cam Smith is 4-5 with a 5.20 ERA at independent Lancaster. He's walked 57 and struck out 47 in 53.2 innings.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Morton rubs salt in it

Mobile catcher Colt Morton had five RBIs on Friday in the BayBears' 13-2 pasting of the Biscuits.

Morton hit a two-run double and a three-run home run to tie his career high for RBIs. He was promoted to the BayBears a month ago.

On July 5, 2003, in Morton's sixth professional game, he knocked in five runs for Eugene of the short-season Northwest League. He hit two home runs that day against Everett.

Mobile's 13 runs were the most surrendered by the Biscuits this year. The BayBears' 15-hit shelling tied Montgomery's worst night, joining Carolina (July 14), Mobile (June 17) and West Tenn (May 12).

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Aren't scoring changes fun?

Apparently, someone has some sway with the scorekeeping in Mobile -- and it's not the official scorekeeper.

The Biscuits lost two hits late Wednesday, at least an hour after their 15-2 win over the BayBears. Elliot Johnson's triple and a Patrick Breen single disappeared.

I say it was at least an hour after the game because I typed the box score in for our Thursday edition about 10:45. At that point, Johnson and Breen both had two hits, which meant every Montgomery batter had at least two, and the BayBears had allowed only one unearned run. The changes also stripped Johnson of two RBIs and Breen of one.

After further review, the BayBears' pitching numbers improved and the defense was tagged with ~three~ additional errors. And it's not like Montgomery's offense has hits to spare.

Hopefully, Gabriel Martinez won't lose any of his team-record seven RBIs from the game. One of his two home runs might turn into an E-1.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Oh baby, baby

Gina Peguero, the wife of Biscuits pitcher Tony Peguero, had the couple's second child today.
Brandon was born about 2 p.m., the coaches and players said. Tony isn't with the team tonight for obvious reasons.

"The guy came into the world a lucky guy: He doesn't look like his dad," Biscuits hitting coach Mako Oliveras cracked. "Thank God he doesn't look like Tony Peguero and looks like his mom."

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Umpires' delay?!?

Sunday's game started 19 minutes late for an odd reason: The umpires were late.

The game was scheduled to start at 5:05 p.m., but the umpires had barely arrived at that point. By the time they dressed and scampered to the field, it was 5:24.

"We don't have time to talk right now," crew chief Ria Cortesio said as she headed to the field.

I've never seen an umpires' delay before. I'm sure it happens at the high school level when a coach moves a game time and forgets to inform the association that provides the school's umpires.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Sonnanstine's streak over

Andy Sonnanstine won't win his 10th straight start tonight and stands a good chance of losing.

He's out after 5 1/3 innings, just after giving up a three-run triple to Michael Rosamond. Mississippi would have scored in the first had Biscuits center fielder Jason Pridie not made a spectacular catch at the right-center wall. Sonnanstine squirmed out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the fourth when the Braves committed a mental error.

With one out, Josh Burrus flied out. Right fielder Justin Ruggiano made a strong enough throw that Luis Hernandez, the runner at third, decided to go back to third. Brandon Jones, the runner on second, had ventured too far toward third and was thrown out.

Heck of a run for Sonnanstine, though.

System check

International League South
SS Matthew Maniscalco was 1-for-4 with an RBI single in his debut Friday.
RHP Chris Flinn walked three in two-thirds of an inning and allowed a run in his debut Friday.
1B Kevin Witt hit his 32nd home run Friday and is two shy of Tampa Bay's minor-league single-season record. He has a .295 average and 89 RBIs.
RF Delmon Young has a .331 average, six home runs and 45 RBIs. He's 20-for-23 on steals.
1B Wes Bankston was 2-for-3 with two doubles Friday, pushing his average to .276 in 23 games.
RHP Juan Salas has a 0.93 ERA in 19.1 innings with eight walks and 24 strikeouts.
LHP Jeff Ridgway is 1-3 with a 3.15 ERA in 34.1 innings.
LF Joel Guzman is 2-for-11 in three games.

California League North
LHP Jon Barratt pitched 6.2 shutout innings to win Wednesday. He walked none and struck out eight. In his last five starts, he's 3-1 with a 1.48 ERA, five walks and 35 strikeouts.
CF Fernando Perez's .377 on-base percentage has led to 92 runs scored. He's 30-for-42 on steals and has 109 strikeouts.
C John Jaso has a .314 batting average and 33 RBIs. He hit his sixth homer Thursday.
RHP Chris Mason is 11-6 with a 4.23 ERA.
RHP James Houser has won his last four starts, allowing 18 hits in 23.2 innings. He's 10-4 with a 4.06 ERA and has won nine straight decisions.

Midwest League East
LHP Jacob McGee gave up two hits over five shutout innings to win the opener of a doubleheader Friday. He walked two and struck out 10. It was his sixth double-digit strikeout game. He's 7-8 with a 2.63 ERA.
RHP Matt Walker worked 6.1 shutout innings to win Friday's nightcap. He's 4-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 10 starts.
LHP Mike Wlodarczyk allowed one run over seven innings to win last Sunday and had a quality no-decision start Friday. He's 7-8 with a 3.13 ERA.

New York-Penn League McNamara
RHP Woods Fines is 3-0 with an 0.90 ERA in his last three starts, including seven shutout innings Tuesday. Fines is 4-2 with a 3.75 ERA this year. He has walked six and struck out 37.
RHP Jeremy Hellickson pitched five shutout innings in a win Wednesday. He's 2-3 with a 1.96 ERA, 10 walks and 52 strikeouts in 46 innings.
1B Matt Fields has 13 hits and 10 RBIs in his last seven games. He hit his first homer Friday.
OF Josh Hamilton hasn't played since July 29 because a left knee injury that will be checked out in Birmingham this week. He has a .260 average.

Appalachian League East
RHP Tyree Hayes threw a seven-inning, two-hit shutout Friday. He has not allowed a run in 19 innings and is 2-0.
OF Andrew Lopez, who hit a grand slam Tuesday, is hitting .285 with 19 runs scored and 24 RBIs.

Those who strayed from the Rays
RHP Willie Glen took a no-hitter into the ninth inning Tuesday for independent Gary. He gave up one hit on a bunt where his team failed to cover first base.
2B Dan DeMent hit two solo home runs Wednesday for Class AA Harrisburg (Nationals). He's hitting .239 with a career-high 18 home runs.
2B Fernando Cortez has a .322 average in his last 14 games at Class AAA Omaha (Royals). He has a .248 average.
3B Rico Washington was 11-for-24 in a seven-game hit streak that ended Wednesday for Class AAA Memphis (Cardinals). He's hitting .227.
RHP Dewon Brazelton has won his last three starts for Class AAA Portland (Padres). He's 4-3 with a 2.67 ERA.
LHP Sam Walton is 1-3 with a 1.59 ERA at Class AA Midland (A's).
RHP Jose Diaz gave up two runs in two innings of his debut Thursday with Class AAA Omaha (Royals).
RHP Carlos Hines has gotten a loss in four of his last five appearances with Class AAA Fresno (Giants).
RHP Jesus Colome is 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA at Class AAA Columbus (Yankees).
RF Brian Martin is 4-for-24 in his last seven games for Class AAA Memphis (Cardinals), lowering his average to .277.
RHP John Webb is 5-9 with a 4.17 ERA at Class AAA Memphis (Cardinals).
RHP Travis Minix worked a perfect inning Friday, his first outing since July 17 at Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Phillies).
LHP Yorkin Ferreras gave up no earned runs and registered 13 strikeouts in a loss Friday for independent San Angelo.
RHP Josh Parker struck out 13 over seven innings Tuesday for independent Amarillo. Parker (3-7) gave up two runs and lost.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Flinn to Durham, too; Leandro TIA

Pitcher Chris Flinn has been promoted to Durham, marking the second Biscuit in three days to move up to Class AAA. The AP lists Flinn and Matthew Maniscalco's promotions in their daily transaction list.

Flinn hasn't pitched since June 27 and has been on Montgomery's inactive list. I'm not sure why he went up, unless someone at Durham got hurt or was headed to the majors, or maybe Flinn will be on the inactive list there. He was 1-6 with a 5.49 ERA this year with the Biscuits.

Flinn is a sixth-year pro who was a third-round pick in the 2001 draft. This will be his first experience at Class AAA.

To adjust for Evan Longoria's arrival, the Biscuits have put outfielder Francisco Leandro on the inactive list.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Brignac, Longoria staying together

Third baseman Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay's first-round draft pick this year, is also coming to Montgomery.

He and shortstop Reid Brignac, who are scheduled to debut with the Biscuits on Friday, will arrive in town today.

I didn't think the Rays would be this aggressive with Longoria, who has played only 36 pro games. He starred at Long Beach State this spring and was this year's top-rated position player. Tampa Bay picked him third overall.

He does have the numbers, combined between short-season Hudson Valley and high-Class A Visalia: .350 average, 12 home runs, 39 RBIs. He also has a decent walk-to-strikeout ratio: 18 walks and 24 whiffs.

This gives the Biscuits a revamped left side of the field Friday: Longoria at third, Brignac at short and Patrick Breen in left. If those guys can give Montgomery some needed offense, the Biscuits are easily in line to make noise in the playoffs. They already stood a good chance of reaching the postseason.

Sonnanstine league's top player for July

Biscuits pitcher Andy Sonnanstine won the Southern League's Player of the Month award for July, the league announced Thursday.

He was only 6-0 in his six starts with a 1.35 ERA and two shutouts. In his first start of the month, the right-hander was one out from a third complete game. In his last, which was July 30, he threw seven shutout innings.

Sonnanstine (12-6) has won his last nine starts. In those 70 2/3 innings, he has a 1.15 ERA, has allowed 38 hits, walked eight and struck out 50.

Sonnanstine, who leads the league in victories, is scheduled to go for his 10th straight win Saturday.

Bye, Maniscalco; Welcome, Brignac

Shortstop Reid Brignac will make his Biscuits debut Friday and Matthew Maniscalco is moving up to Class AAA Durham.

Maniscalco learned of the promotion after Wednesday's loss at Birmingham. I'll assume Brignac learned of the move after Visalia's win over Lancaster.

Brignac is one of Tampa Bay's top prospects, while Maniscalco is one of the system's best people. It's obvious how good of a guy Maniscalco is when you see how many people made their way from his hometown to see him play and the way he treats each person. Sometimes, it made you think Oxford is a suburb of Montgomery.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Knox released

Outfielder Patrick Breen is headed to Montgomery from Class A Visalia, but the move doesn't involve the Biscuits sending an outfielder to short-handed Durham.

Ryan Knox was released instead.

Knox bounced between the Biscuits and Bulls this season. When he was with Durham, he didn't get much playing time and hit .184 in 34 games. With Montgomery, he had a .149 average in 25 games.

Knox was here to start the season, but the Rays promoted him before the first game. He returned in late April and was in six games before Delmon Young's bat throw. To adjust the rosters for Young's 50-game suspension, Knox went back to the Bulls and Francisco Leandro jumped from Visalia to Montgomery.

Breen was primarily a left fielder with Visalia. He had a .282 average, 21 home runs and 63 RBIs.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Dukes gone

The Devil Rays have suspended Elijah Dukes indefinitely.

Major-league talent with major personality issues. In the Baseball America story, he says he was misquoted in Friday's USA Today when he complained about conditions in Durham and having to shower in "sewer water."

He's tried to backtrack before. Last year, he turned down a belated invitation to the Southern League All-Star Game because he was picked as a replacement. I was on vacation after that and another reporter quoted him saying he turned it down and giving his reasons why. When I got back, he said he was misquoted and wasn't speaking to the media any more that season (thus denying himself the best chance of refuting the earlier story). Too bad the story was true.

This spring, about 20 minutes after I arrived in St. Pete, Delmon Young and I were talking and Delmon was talking about the media troubles he had that spring with a Montgomery TV station. Dukes walked by on his way to the shower.

His first words to me concerned all media: "I hate all of you m----- f-----s." My first words to him: "Hi, Eli. How you doing?"

A day or two after that, he started ranting in the clubhouse when he saw me about the stories saying Delmon's troubles last year were because they were roommates. Too bad I never wrote about them being roommates. I didn't care who they roomed with.

Later that week, Dukes was gone for a few days. One of the players said Dukes was out because he had a root canal ... "four of them," the player said. FOUR? I've never had a root canal -- knock on wood -- but I've heard enough that I sincerely felt bad for the guy. (And would for anyone with four root canals.)

The day Dukes returned, I was walking by his locker and didn't have a notepad up or anything because I predicted he wouldn't talk about it. Me: "Hey, Eli. Hope you're feeling better." I have trouble describing the look he gave me. It was one of pure disgust that I had even spoken to him.

He's good at baseball and good with children, but he's also a powderkeg who makes everyone around him uneasy. Maybe this will cause him to get his act together, but that's been said many, many times before.

2007 Biscuits schedule

The Southern League released the 2007 schedule today. The Biscuits open at home, the NCAA Division II tournament is coming back to Riverwalk and the AHSAA finals face a conflict.

The AHSAA says it will consider other cities for its championship series, while the city said it wants to keep them here. There will be a doubleheader June 2 with the Biscuits and the NCAA championship game.

April 5-9 -- West Tenn (Thursday opener)
April 11-15 -- at Chattanooga
April 16-20 -- at Birmingham
April 21-25 -- Huntsville (Saturday opener)
April 27-May 1 -- at Jacksonville

May 2-6 -- Mississippi (Wednesday opener)
May 7-11 -- Tennessee (Monday opener)
May 12-16 -- at West Tenn

May 17-21 -- Birmingham (Thursday opener) -- AHSAA finals run May 16-19
May 23-27 -- at Mississippi -- NCAA Division II starts May 26
May 28-June 1 -- at Huntsville

June 2-6 -- Carolina (Saturday opener) -- NCAA Division II ends June 2
June 7-11 -- at Mobile
June 13-17 -- Jacksonville (Wednesday opener)
end of first half

June 18-23 -- Mobile (Monday opener), six-game series
June 24-29 -- at Mississippi, six-game series
June 30-July 3 -- Birmingham (Saturday opener), four-game series

July 4-7 -- at Mobile, four-game series
July 9 -- Southern League All-Star Game at Mississippi
July 11-15 -- Mississippi (Wednesday opener)

July 17-21 -- at Carolina
July 23-27 -- Mobile (Monday opener)
July 28-Aug. 1 -- at Birmingham

Aug. 2-6 -- at Tennessee
Aug. 8-12 -- Chattanooga (Wednesday opener)
Aug. 14-18 -- Jacksonville (Tuesday opener)

Aug. 20-24 -- at Birmingham
Aug. 25-29 -- Carolina (Saturday opener)
Aug. 30-Sept. 3 -- at Jacksonville

Monday, July 31, 2006

Wheelings and dealings

The Rays sent shortstop Julio Lugo to the Dodgers today in exchange for minor-leaguers Joel Guzman and Sergio Pedroza.

I guess Tampa Bay's negotiations with Lugo over a long-term contract extension didn't get far (or were only a ploy to draw a better trade offer).

Guzman reached the major leagues this year but was with Class AAA Las Vegas. He's an outfielder now, though he played shortstop last year for the Jacksonville Suns. Guzman was a nice player for the Suns but he's not a major-league shortstop.

B.J. Upton has been promoted to the big leagues after all, three days after the USA Today story. It's not like he said anything too inflammatory. The first thing he should do is ask for a meeting with the entire team so that he can apologize for any hurt feelings. Because he didn't make overly harsh statements and because he doesn't have a history of such, he'll be forgiven soon enough.

Pedroza has 13 games experience at high-Class A Vero Beach. He had a .281 average, 21 home runs and 75 RBIs at low-A Columbus when he was promoted. He'll be headed to the California League.

In news involving a former Biscuit, pitcher Jose Diaz went from the Rangers to the Royals in exchange for first baseman-outfielder Matt Stairs.

Diaz will be on his fifth organization since July 2004. He and Scott Kazmir came to the Devil Rays two years ago in a trade with the Mets. The Indians claimed Diaz off waivers last summer, then didn't offer him a contract for this year. He signed with the Rangers.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

System check

International League South
OF Darnell McDonald, who had a 27-game hitting streak snapped last Sunday, has a .354 average in July with 15 runs scored and 20 RBIs. His season numbers include a .311 average, 52 RBIs and 21 steals.
1B Wes Bankston is hitting .302 with 10 RBIs in 16 games. He has three extra-base hits.
RHP Juan Salas is 1-0 with two saves and a 1.04 ERA in 15 appearances. He's walked six and struck out 21 in 17.1 innings.
C Shawn Riggans has a .288 average, 44 RBIs and 34 runs scored.
SS Ben Zobrist has scored 11 runs and knocked in six in 16 games.
LHP Chris Seddon has won his last two starts and is 8-5 with a 4.77 ERA.
RF Delmon Young is hitting .348 with 23 extra-base hits.
3B B.J. Upton is 44-for-61 on steals, has scored 70 runs and committed 33 errors.
CF Elijah Dukes has a .401 on-base percentage and 58 runs scored.

California League North
3B Evan Longoria has a .440 on-base percentage, six doubles and eight home runs in 24 games. He's hitting .359 with 23 RBIs and 20 runs scored.
CF Fernando Perez has scored 86 runs and stole 28 bases.
SS Reid Brignac is hitting only .245 in July with 16 runs scored and 14 RBIs. He has a .315 average and 19 homers this year.
RHP Chris Mason has lost three of his last four starts. He's 10-6 with a 4.33 ERA in 21 starts.
RHP James Houser is 8-4 with a 4.37 ERA and hasn't lost since May 12.
LHP Jon Barratt, in his last three starts, has allowed 11 hits in 17 innings, walked four and struck out 25.

Midwest League East
RHP Greg Dupas is 3-2 with a 1.35 ERA and is 22-of-26 in save opportunities.
RHP Kevin Lynn is 7-1 with a 1.99 ERA in 35 relief appearances. He's walked five and struck out 57 in 58.2 innings.
RHP Jacob McGee struck out a season-high 11 over six innings Tuesday. He gave up two hits and one run in the no-decision. He's 6-8 this season with a 2.71 ERA and a league-leading 140 strikeouts.
OF James Hall has a .281 average, 33 extra-base hits and 51 RBIs.

New York-Penn League McNamara
RHP Erik Walker has allowed seven hits in 22 innings. He's 3-1 with an 0.82 ERA, four walks and 27 strikeouts.
RHP Jeremy Hellickson has given up 24 hits in 41 innings. He's 1-3 with a 2.20 ERA. On Friday, he allowed three hits over seven innings, walked none, struck out eight and lost.
OF Josh Hamilton is hitting .271 with five RBIs in 14 games.
LHP Ryan Owens is 2-0 with a 1.95 ERA.

Appalachian League East
OF Desmond Jennings has 17 steals and 20 runs scored. He's hitting .265 with 13 walks.
RHP Aneudi Cuevas has a 1.35 ERA, five walks and six strikeouts in 6.2 innings.
3B Michael McCormick is hitting .275 with four home runs and 18 RBIs.

Those who strayed from the Rays
2B Fernando Cortez has two hits in each of his last six games, pushing his average to .254 at Class AAA Omaha (Royals).
LHP Sam Walton is 1-2 with a 1.64 ERA in seven appearances at Class AA Midland (A's).
RF Brian Martin was 3-for-4 with a double, home run, two runs scored and four RBIs Thursday for Class AAA Memphis (Cardinals). He's hitting .297 with 18 RBIs and nine runs scored in 32 games.
RHP Carlos Hines has a 1-1 record, two saves and a 3.92 ERA for Class AAA Fresno (Giants).
RHP Travis Minix is 0-3 with a 2.50 ERA with Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Phillies).
C Iker Franco has a .257 average at Class AA Springfield (Cardinals).
RHP Jose Veras has allowed 42 hits in 49 innings for Class AAA Columbus (Yankees). He's 4-3 with 15 saves and a 2.94 ERA.
2B Dan DeMent is hitting .236 at Class AA Harrisburg (Nationals).
OF Jesus Feliciano has been released by Class AA Harrisburg (Nationals). He was hitting .230.
RHP Willie Glen is 7-2 and has allowed hitters a .241 average with independent Gary.
RHP Josh Parker is 3-6 with a 5.21 ERA for independent Amarillo.
C Robinson Cancel has a .303 average at independent Edinburg. He has nine home runs, 39 RBIs and 19 stolen bases.

Sewer water and such

B.J. Upton and Delmon Young have further delayed their major-league promotions and Elijah Dukes has yet again tarnished his image.

If you haven't seen Friday's USA Today story, it will leave you shaking your head.

To summarize: The three can't believe the Devil Rays still have them at Class AAA Durham.

There is no way the Devil Rays can promote the three to the big leagues now without appearing to pander to the players. All three had already embarrassed the organization this year.

Upton, after moving to third base a few weeks ago, was perhaps about to head up in a few days, but I can't see how Tampa Bay could do that now. He was charged with a DUI in June. Upton doesn't say anything overly derogatory in the story, but it's guilt by association.

Young has played extremely well since returning from his 50-game suspension for throwing a bat at an umpire. He had also stayed out of any type of trouble (that I know of) and looked to be on the cusp of his big-league debut, despite calling the Rays "cheap" last year for not promoting him in September. Young is critical of the Rays again in the story.

Dukes is still Dukes, the churlish boor who has had repeated confrontations with his own coaches and his teammates throughout his career. Twice just this season, he's been suspended by the Rays for run-ins with coaches and teammates. He cracks that they bathe in "sewer water" in the minors, while major-leaguers "shower in Evian." Still, Dukes has major-league talent.

(Was it mere coincidence that each of this year's Dukes incidents happened one day after Young's and Upton's? Just curious.)

Upton will rebound from this, learn from it and move on. For Young, this is another troubling incident and questions over how he'll be in the future remain. Dukes is still Dukes, who will have problems throughout his career.

When the three get around major-leaguers again, they will get a chilly reception. Upton may get it in September, the other two in spring training.

There have been so many troubling incidents in Durham this year, including manager John Tamargo drawing a 10-game suspension for bumping another umpire, that one Biscuit made an amazing statement. He'd rather stay in Class AA for the rest of this year than be subjected to the mess in Durham.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ruggiano turning into Biscuit

Outfielder Justin Ruggiano is trading in his Jacksonville uniform for some butter and blue.

The Devil Rays added Ruggiano from the Los Angeles Dodgers and are sending him to the Biscuits, according to

Ruggiano, who had a .260 average with nine home runs and 45 RBIs in 89 games with the Suns, is the player to be named later in a trade between the Rays and Dodgers last month. Tampa Bay sent pitcher Mark Hendrickson, catcher Toby Hall and a wad of cash to LaLa Land for pitcher Jae Seo and catcher Dioner Navarro.

Montgomery will have to make an additional transaction to clear roster space for Ruggiano. The Biscuits' front office is expected to officially announce the moves at some point this week.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Durham no-hitter

Jason Hammel and Juan Salas combined on a no-hitter Sunday for Durham.

Hammel worked 8 1/3 innings and Salas got the final two outs in the Bulls' 4-1 win over the Columbus Clippers. Columbus scored in the ninth on a hit batsman, two errors and a wild pitch.

According to Tampa Bay's media guide, it's the fifth no-hitter in the Rays' organization. None of the previous four were combined no-hitters.

Jason Standridge -- June 28, 1999 with low-A Charleston (S.C.), seven innings
Doug Waechter -- Aug. 10, 2000 with short-season Hudson Valley
Gerardo Garcia -- May 22, 2002 with Class AA Orlando
Chad Gaudin -- July 15, 2003 with Class AA Orlando, a seven-inning perfect game

I've seen four no-hitters, but one barely counts.

In college, three pitchers combined on a rainy, six-inning perfect game. Hey, the school still claims it. Fortunately, I've seen more.

While I was in college, I witnessed two within two weeks. It was toward the end of a summer term when a friend and I decided to make the 40-minute drive to the nearest minor-league franchise, which was playing a doubleheader. A third friend declined to go because he had to study or something. Game 1 was the no-no. When the two of us got back to campus, we called the third guy: "Hey, you missed a no-hitter."

Two weeks later, it was the day or two before the fall term started. The same friend and I made the same drive. The same third friend declined to go. It was a combined no-hitter. When we got back, we (of course) called: "Hey, you missed another one." Hysterical laughter on our part followed.

In 1999, I went to a series at Bank One Ballpark (hasn't the name changed?) in Phoenix. Jose Jimenez of the St. Louis Cardinals tied up with Arizona's Randy Johnson. The Big Unit was going through a month where he might have given up a combined 15 hits and didn't win a game. He didn't win that night, either. I remember the Seventh Inning Stretch came about the 1-hour, 10-minute mark and Buck Showalter arguing a nothing call to try to distract Jimenez. It didn't matter.

There was a near-miss in 1998, one that I remember because it was at Dodger Stadium and their fans backed up their reputation. Chan Ho Park was perfect after seven. There were two fans next to me. During the bottom of the seventh, one looked at the other and uttered the phrase: "Let's go. We can listen to Vin (Scully) for the rest of this one." There might have been a confrontation had they seen my facial expression. Jason Kendall hit Park's first pitch of the eighth inning for the Pirates' lone hit.

One major joy that 1998 night was knowing that the AP would send out a no-hitter bulletin after six innings and my co-workers would see it, realize I was at the game and start cussing me. I found out later that two other friends who were on an East Coast trip watched SportsCenter that night. SportsCenter's segment on the game had "... Park perfect through three (highlight) ... Park perfect through four (highlight) ..." Those two were screaming at the TV in disgust until that single.

Enough of my no-hitter stories? Anybody have their own?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

No system check

I'm on vacation, so I'm not looking around the Rays' minor-league system today.

I will point out that Juan Salas' streak ended Friday. Salas allowed his first earned runs of the season when Columbus' Terrence Long, a Millbrook native, hit a two-run homer off Salas. Salas had thrown 48 1/3 innings without an earned run, though a generous scoring change one night in Montgomery helped.

For my vacation, it looks like I'm zipping over to Charleston, S.C., next week. This vacation is the least-planned trip of my career. I'm a history nut -- here's the line friends are sick of hearing: I was a double-major in college with history and journalism, and a minor in political science -- so Charleston should have some things that interest me.

I'll be in touch.